Tag Archives: Modernisation

Poster of the 1906 Royal Jubilee Exhibition

The Great Royal Jubilee Exhibition of 1906 has been a momentous event for the culture and economy of the young Kingdom of Romania. It has also marked, through the elaborate and high quality Neo-Romanian design of many of its pavilions, the onset of the mature phase of this style. The exhibition’s chief edifice was the Palace of the Arts, presented in the images bellow, which was envisaged as a gathering place of what was considered the finest products of the Romanian people throughout its history. That was also the central message of the event,  publicised as as a dual celebration of, on the one hand, King Carol I’s forty years of glorious reign, which saw the gaining on the battlefield of the country’s independence from the Ottoman Empire, the subsequent Europeanisation process and the phenomenal growth of its economy, and also, on the other hand, marking 1,800 years since in 106 CE the Roman Empire under Emperor Trajan conquered the ancient kingdom of Dacia located where in modern times the state of Romania emerged, a historical milestone that ignited the formation of the Romanian people and language. The 1906 exhibition was thus imbued with an intense and picturesque patriotic sentiment typical of the La Belle Époque period that had powerful reverberations throughout the whole of the Romanian speaking world, which at that moment included large swathes of territory under the sovereignty of other states, such as Transylvania in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire or Bessarabia, then a province of Russia.

The Palace of the Arts is shown in all its glory in this colour poster published in the monthly magazine “Vulturul” (“The Eagle”, a reference to the country’s coat of arms). The issue date is Sunday 2 July 1906 (in the Julian calendar, in official use then in the country). It presents the official opening ceremony of the exhibition in the presence of the Royal Family and a welcoming public, which took place on 6 June (it closed on 23 November that year).

1906 Bucharest Jubilee Exhibition poster, published  by the  montly “Vulturul”, on 2 July 1906 (arch. Madalin Ghigeanu collection)

The Palace of the Arts was in a way the Romanian response to the tradition of iconic exhibition buildings inaugurated by the Crystal Palace in London  half a century before, epitomizing the ambitious aspirations of that young Balkan nation. It contained a large glazed roof over a central structure embellished with Neo-Romanian style elements and ornaments and also references to the classical architecture, considered then as the purest form of architecture. Its designers were the architects Victor Stefanescu and Stefan Burcus, the contractor being the engineer Robert Effingham Grant, a Romanian of British origins.

1906 Bucharest Jubilee Exhibition poster, published  by the  montly “Vulturul”, on 2 July 1906 (arch. Madalin Ghigeanu collection)

The central figures of this poster were the royal couple, King Carol I, an excellent administrator, brought up and trained in the military industrial complex of the mid-c19th Germany, and his wife, Queen Elizabeth, an internationally renown writer, known after her nom de plume as Carmen Sylva. They are presented receiving the homage of the population and in two prominent medallions flanking the image of the palace.

1906 Bucharest Jubilee Exhibition poster, published  by the  montly “Vulturul”, on 2 July 1906 (arch. Madalin Ghigeanu collection)

The monarch has been the supervisor of the exhibition works, a role in a way similar to that of Prince Albert for the London event of 1851, while the general manager was Constantin Istrati, an accomplished scientist.

1906 Bucharest Jubilee Exhibition poster, published  by the  montly “Vulturul”, on 2 July 1906 (arch. Madalin Ghigeanu collection)

The Royal Family is present at the opening, King Carol I (second from right), Queen Elizabeth next to his left, while the Crown Prince Ferndinand and Crown Princess Marie are at his right. The children of the princely couple are in front, from left to right: Princess Elizabeth, Princess Marie, Prince Carol and on the right the little Prince Nicolas. A peasant woman graciously offers them a bunch of flowers.

1906 Bucharest Jubilee Exhibition poster, published  by the  montly “Vulturul”, on 2 July 1906 (arch. Madalin Ghigeanu collection)

The poster also presents in some detail the public participating at the ceremony, Bucharest people and visitors in a relaxed attitude, proud of their country’s achievements embodied in that great exhibition.

1906 Bucharest Jubilee Exhibition poster, published  by the  montly “Vulturul”, on 2 July 1906 (arch. Madalin Ghigeanu collection)

I like the presence of persons wearing peasant costumes, as is the group on the left hand side of the image above, who were probably proper peasants and also higher class individuals, including aristocrats, representing a patriotic fashion introduced and promoted by Queen Elizabeth and Crown Princess Marie, who incidentally were of foreign extraction, the first a German and the second of British and Russian origins, at the local royal balls and other major functions.

In 1923 the Miliary Museum of Romania was established within the Palace of the Arts building, functioning until the late 1930s when the building caught fire and later, in 1943, demolished with the intention to erect a more modern museum edifcice. Those plans never came to fruition because of the war and the Stalinist takeover of 1947. However, a grandiose communist heroes mausoleum, which is now probably the most beautiful architectural structure of the communist era, was been built there in the late 1950s.

I would like to express here my thanks to architect Madalin Ghigeanu, who kindly provided this poster, part of his ample collection, for publication.

Images from the Art Deco style walking tour on Saturday 7 April ’12

Images from last Saturday, 7 April '12, Historic Houses of Romania walking tour: Bucharest's Art Deco architectural style (©Valentin Mandache)

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St. Catherine’s Church, Bucharest

St. Catherine Church, Patriarchy Hill area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

This is St. Catherine’s Church (Biserica Sfanta Ecaterina) in Bucharest’s Patriarchy Hill area (I organised an architectural tour a couple of weeks ago there), which as a place of worship dates from the c16th, but the actual building is from the early 1850s. It is in a provincial neo-baroque style, a quite sporadic design for a church of Byzantine rite, epitomizing the process of modernisation and Europeanisation of the Romanian society of that era, following the national revolutions of 1848 and drive toward modern nation building and independence from the Ottoman Empire, the erstwhile oriental overlord of this region. The iPhone photo has been perspective corrected in Lightroom and cross-processed in Picassa, giving it this interesting vintage postcard aspect. That impression is charmingly enhanced by the exposed brick facade produced by the current restoration works.

Ethnographic solar discs doorway

The doorway presented here dates from the second half of the 1930s and is of a late Neo-Romanian style type. This phase of the national style of Romania unfurled in the 1930s and also went on until its twilight in the years of the Second World War. It is characterised by what I would call a “crisis of expression” caused by an erosion of its popularity due to the ascending preference among the public for the Art Deco and Modernist styles and of also for Mediterranean inspired forms and motifs. The Neo-Romanian style tried, in its late phase, in many cases successfully, to assimilate the new forms of expression as is the case with this well preserved wooden doorway. The artefact brings together ethnographic solar discs, common in the Romanian peasant art, the rope motif decoration of the doorway edges, and Mediterranean style elements, belonging to the type which I term as fairy tale style, such as the gridiron protecting its window or the hinge and knob plates. The are five kinds of solar discs, displayed bellow the photograph of the doorway. The first two are pagan, pre-Christian, shared with the rest of the Indo-European world, while the other three include the motifs of the cross typical of Christianity, thus making their combination a wonderful reflection of half-pagan, half-Christian universe of the traditional Romanian peasant communities.

Ethnographic solar discs doorway, late 1930s house, ASE area Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Ethnographic solar discs doorway, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Ethnographic solar discs doorway, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Ethnographic solar discs doorway, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Ethnographic solar discs doorway, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Ethnographic solar discs doorway, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest 1930s skyline

The two images presented here are typical examples of Bucharest 1930s modernist and Art Deco apartment building tops, that in many aspects defined the skyline of the city for decades, until the huge communist building programme of the 1980s turned Romania’s capital, including its skyline, into a North Korean dictatorship inspired eyesore. The photographs also show how a renovation would work wonders on those edifices. In the instances shown here, I like the ziggurat composition, which gives an impression of svelteness and confidence typical of a skyscraper, which the design subtly suggests. The first image shows how attractive a newly cleaned and painted façade can be. The building in the second photograph is still waiting a sprucing up, which I am sure would greatly bring back its former beauty and remind the locals about the good quality architecture of yesteryars of this city.

Bucharest 1930s skyline, Modernist - Art Deco apartment block in Piata Romana area (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1930s skyline, Modernist - Art Deco apartment bloc, Mosilor area (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork

The Fin de Siècle period was a time when the architectural ironwork, expressed largely in wrought iron designs, became affordable as a construction material and architectural embellishing, adopted throughout the globalised world of the late Victorian era. The tone was given by the famous Eiffel Tower built for the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris, which represented a climax for ironwork structures, traced back to the Crystal Palace pavilion of the 1851 Great Exhibition in London.

Bucharest was a rapidly developing city in those years before the Great War, with many buildings being erected in the then fashionable historicist styles, which I collectively call the “Little Paris” style, inspired mostly from French c19th architecture. Many of those buildings were embellished with exquisite wrought iron elements, from balconies, doorway assemblies, gates and street fences, conservatories, etc., which constitute now a definitory parameter of Bucharest’s historic built landscape.

I would like to present in the following photographs just a tiny part from the multitude of those architectural ironwork structures, dating in this instance mostly from the 1900s, found now throughout Romania’s capital. In my view they are quite well preserved when taking into account the upheavals experienced by the city in the last century since they were put in place and the general lack of maintenance of the last few decades. It is not hard to imagine how a basic restoration of these structures would notably increase the aesthetics of this metropolis and emphasise in a very positive way its identity; unfortunately there is still a long way for its post-communist inhabitants to learn and understand that.

Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: gate and clam shell doorway awning structures, Icoanei area (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: gate and clam shell doorway awning structures, Dacia area (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork (detail of the above): clam shell door awning structure, Dacia area (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: ornamental doorhandle in the shape of a sphinx, Mantuleasa area (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: doorway awnings and gate, Mosilor area (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: conservatory structure, Mosilor area (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: clam shell awning structure, Mosilor area (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: floral ornaments of a street fence structure, Piata Romana area(©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: balcony structure embellished with the house owner's monogram, Gara de Nord area (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: entrance conservatory structure, Gara de Nord area (©Valentin Mandache)
Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: gate, street fence and doorway assembly structures, Patriarchy Hill area (©Valentin Mandache)

Images from last Sunday’s architectural tour – remnants of the Great Exhibition of 1906

Sunday 8 Jan. '12 architectural tour in Carol Park, Bucharest: Remnants of the Great Exhibition of 1906 (©Valentin Mandache)

Design elements of a Bucharest Art Deco house

I encountered in one a my architectural tours, a few months ago in Foisorul de Foc (Fire Watchtower) area of Bucharest, an Art Deco era house of a distinguished design, of which the most remarkable was the ironwork of its gate and staircase window. The building also contained other design elements worthy of attention, such as its general volumetric set up, concierge window shape or the rusticated façade base pattern reminding of geometric, Mondrianesque, style paintings of the 1920s and ’30s. The images bellow detail those interesting Art Deco elements.

Art Deco style gate, late 1930s house, Foisorul de Foc area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I like the pleasant to the eye proportions of this gate and how its general rectangular pattern is broken by diagonal wave and solar disk motifs wonderfully distributed throughout the design field. It is perhaps an abstraction of a modern city (the rectangular pattern) on an ocean shore bathed by undulating sea waves in its daily life cycle from dawn till dusk and over again (the full and outlined solar disks), etc.

Art Deco style house dating from the late 1930s, Foisorul de Foc area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The house has good volumetric proportions adapted to the small plot of land available for construction, an ubiquitous and age old problem in Bucharest. The rule of three typical of the Art Deco style is detectable in many of the design elements of the façade. Interesting is also the wall rendering, which reproduces the coral motif of the Southern seas, a theme popular in those years among Bucharesters, aspiring to visit exotic places so different from their continental European landscape and climate.

Art Deco style house dating from the late 1930s, Foisorul de Foc area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The staircase window is also embellished with a high quality ironwork which shares the design theme of the gate. There is also a porthole window, an echo of the ocean liner theme so fashionable in those happy years after the Great Economic Depression and before the conflagration of the Second World War.

Staircase tower window (©VM)

The staircase window design is indeed remarkable, a cubist-like painting rendered in ironwork.

Concierge window, late 1930s Art Deco style house, Foisorul de Foc area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The 1930s architect was obviously a talented professional who paid attention to minutiae details, such as the concierge window seen in this photograph, cut within the rusticated pattern of the façade base, itself resembling a marvellous avant-garde composition.

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I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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If you plan acquiring or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Art Deco style school

I continue here the series of posts dealing with the historic architecture of the city of Ploiesti, the major oil extraction and refining centre of Romania. Today I would like to present a remarkable Art Deco style school building, dating probably from the second part of the 1930s, located on Republicii Boulevard, just across the street from the Art Deco era tram, which I documented in a post published yesterday. The school is named “St. Basil Gymnasium” (“Colegiul Sfantul Vasile”), presenting a symmetrical street façade, where the rule of three is noticeable in the window partitions at its centre. The building features a number of interesting Art Deco elements, seen in the following photographs, comprising details such as well designed doorways for boys (“baieti”) and girsl (“fete”) to a nicely preserved 1930s clock. I will let the photographs to speak for themselves and hope that you would enjoy this short visual Art Deco in this corner of south east Europe.

Art Deco style school, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Deco style school, entrance for girls, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Deco style school, detail of the doorway ironwork featuring the Greek key motif, a suggestion that the school is envisaged as a "temple of learning", Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Deco style school, entrance for boys, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Deco style school, detail of the doorway wall opening decoration, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Deco style school, detail of the doorway for boys pediment, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Deco style school, detail of the doorway for girls pediment, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Deco style school, detail of the letter architectural rendering used for doorway inscriptions, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Deco style school, close up of the late 1930s, made in Germany clock, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Deco style school, details of the side façade and doorway, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Deco style school, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

***********************************************

I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Art Deco era streetcar

Art Deco era streetcar, Michael the Brave Park, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

The streetcar in the above photograph is a transport history exhibit placed in Michael the Brave Park in Ploiesti, the major oil production and refining centre of Romania. It dates from the 1930s, a time when the Art Deco architecture was highly fashionable there, along with the Neo-Romanian style. Ploiesti boasts the largest, in my opinion, Art Deco style building in the south east Europe: the Central Market Halls, designed in the first part of the 1930s by the great architect Toma T Socolescu, a native of the area, and also a multitude of other such wonderful edifices, such as the house which I documented in this blog article. The tram seen here, with its fine and simple outlines, also reminds of the Art Deco fashions found besides architecture, in a multitude of domains such as industrial machinery or jewellery design.

***********************************************

I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.